Today I am in Nairobi, where Episcopal Relief & Development and NetsforLife® are co-sponsoring GBCHealth’s Business Engagement Roundtable on Malaria in Kenya. This is an opportunity to communicate the critical role that the business sector has in addressing the challenges and future demands of malaria in Africa. As a coalition of businesses and organizations committed to investing their resources to make a healthier world, GBCHealth is leading efforts to combat malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Because of its proven methodology and robust monitoring and evaluation practices, NetsforLife® has been selected as the primary example of a successful malaria prevention and control strategy for this roundtable.
Approximately 50 participants representing national and international companies operating in Kenya will be present at today’s event. After a brief overview of the global state of malaria control efforts and what has been done in Kenya so far, discussion will focus on strategies for sustaining the gains made against the disease, what can be done to scale up these efforts to reach more people, and how the private sector can help.
Private sector engagement creates a win-win for everybody involved. Scaling up a proven methodology like NetsforLife®’s direct distribution and net hanging strategy requires investment of money and volunteer effort – something businesses can provide by sponsoring activities and offering opportunities for employees to get involved. Employers can also spread the word about volunteer trainings or post educational materials about the causes of malaria and how it can be prevented. Building a “net culture” where malaria prevention practices are known and implemented is truly a community effort, and businesses have a key role to play.
And businesses benefit, too. As GBCHealth notes on their website, “malaria is an obvious target for business response because of the disease’s huge impact on workforces and their families in areas of high prevalence. Malaria spikes absenteeism, decreases productivity and escalates benefits costs when workers become sick or die.” As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this is being seen in places where NetsforLife® has been active, where malaria cases have decreased by up to 45% since the program started.
However, we need continued investment if we are to maintain the progress that has been achieved thus far. The UN has warned that “there will be a major resurgence in malaria if funding does not continue.” I am looking forward to hearing how the corporations participating in today’s roundtable will invest in malaria prevention in Kenya, in cooperation with government agencies, faith-based organizations and program partnerships like NetsforLife®.
Shaun Walsh is Senior Director for NetsforLife® a program of Episcopal Relief & Development. ADS Nyanza is Episcopal Relief & Development/NetsforLife®'s implementing partner in Kenya, which attended the GBCHealth meeting to present its program impact and results.